San Pedro de Atacama is located in the Antofagasta Region of Chile, and has a population of about 5,000 people. San Pedro lies in the plateaus of the Andes Mountains at an average elevation of about 2,400 meters. It boasts a dramatic landscape, with salt flats, desert, and geysers, and overlooks the Licancabur Volcano.
San Pedro is fairly close to the copper mines in the zone. This town features an important museum of archaeology, as well as native ruins which are the attraction of many tourists. This town has become popular as the starting point for excursions into the surrounding areas. There are lots of spectacular things to do in San Pedro de Atacama, such as visiting Pukara de Quitor and Valle de la Luna. Below is our San Pedro de Atacama travel guide with information on all the best things to do, places to go and what not to miss.
MUSEO GUSTAVO LE PAIGE – This museum is one of the most fantastic museums in Chile. Due to the very little rain in the area, the fossils and artifacts are preserved for longer than normal. Also, here you can find Shamanic items used for preparing and smoking hallucinogenic plants. Belgian priest Father Gustavo Le Paige came here in 1955, and he is one of the main reasons for some of the fantastic finds that are in the museum. Le Paige was an amateur archaeologist and spent 35 years digging up and finding artifacts. Tours of the museum are offered in both English and Spanish.
ALDEA DE TULOR – This is an archaeological site of one of the oldest villages excavated in the area. Here you can find the original adobe buildings that would have been used by the people living in this region.
PUKARA DE QUITOR – This is a fort from the 12th century, and was one of the last ones left standing in the defence against Pedro de Valdivia and the Spanish in northern Chile. Here the indigenous people were defeated, and most of them beheaded by the Spanish forces. This hill offers a great view of the surrounding oasis.
VALLE DE LA LUNA – This valley is in the Atacama desert, and its mysterious name comes from the moon-like landscape, which has been formed and shaped by floods and winds. One of the more popular tourist spots, Valle de La Luna offers a chance to relax and enjoy the fantastic view. Watching the sun set over Valle de la Luna is one of the most beautiful things you’ll ever see. For the more active, you can go biking!
EL TATIO GEYSERS – This is one of the largest and highest geyser fields in the world, and the site is surrounded by volcanoes. The best time to see the geyser is at day break, at around 6:00am. Take caution as some of the ground is thin and cannot hold the weight of people.
MOUNTAIN CLIMBING – There are a few different mountains that you can climb, with spots for all levels of climbers and tours to take you there. Lascar Volcano is one hiking option which is considered more difficult, and you should take time to acclimatise before attempting this. The views from the top are spectacular – you’ll see the beautiful lake, and the salt flat of Atacama.
SANDBOARDING – This desert offers many dunes and hills that are perfect to launch down on a board. Most tours cost around $20, take you a 15-minute drive from San Pedro, and give you 2 hours to enjoy the dunes. Make sure you bring water and apply sunscreen! Death Valley is one of the most popular places and has a dune that stands about 100 metres tall. Make sure to acclimatise to the altitude before doing this activity, as you will have climb the dune with your board.
*** WHAT NOT TOO MISS ***
There is an abundance of attractions here in San Pedro, and one of the must-sees are the amazing geysers that are found close by.
There are some local style restaurants as well as many larger chain restaurants. Here in San Pedro you can find high-end restaurants as well as low-end restaurants that offer a quick service and all types of food. Head to Caracoles street to find some great options, including Adobe (Caracoles 211) where you’ll be spoilt for choice, with steak, falafel, quinoa, or shrimp to name a few! There is also a nice atmosphere, and great service. For something more refreshing, go to the Heladaria Tierra de Sol (Caracoles 169). Here you can try delicious ice-cream, in many different flavours.
In San Pedro, it is illegal to sell alcohol after 2:00 am on Fridays and Saturdays, and on Sundays and weekdays after 11:30pm. There are no actual night clubs and bars, but more café style places that offer a relaxing end to the night. If you fancy a beer, try Cerveceria St. Peter (Toconao 479) or ChelaCabur (Caracoles 212).
From September to May the average temperature is above ten degrees Celsius and gets up to about 17 degrees Celsius. From June to August the temperature on average drops below 10 degrees Celsius. There is almost no rainfall here throughout the year.
There are buses going to the rest of Chile as well as Salta and Jujuy, and buses to Santiago take about 12 hours. There is a main paved road that runs through here. The flights go to Calama and connect to Santiago; there are no direct flights to San Pedro.
There are lodging options of all kinds in San Pedro. Prices can be a bit more expensive due to the numerous tourist attractions present. You can find lower-end lodging for people looking for a simple bed for the night, as well as higher-end places that offer a bit more comfort.
Some places to check out include: La Casa de Don Tomas (C/ Tocopilla) which is a short walk to the town, and has a small pool. The staff are helpful and speak English, and breakfast is included. A bit further out of town is Atacama Adventure Wellness & Ecolodge (Pasaje Alana no.2), perfect for a tranquil, relaxing stay.
Be careful when going on tours and trips that take you to the sights outside of the city.
Always make sure they are safe, and that you never do anything that you don’t feel comfortable with.